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Turkey's President Directly Appoints Rector to Istanbul's Bogazici University

Updated: May 1, 2019

On November 12, 2016, Mehmed Özkan was directly appointed rector to Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, marking the first such move after the president was given authority to directly appoint rectors following the latest state of emergency decree.

Former rector Gülay Barbarosoğlu announced she will end her academic career.

“I’m leaving the university that I’ve contributed to as a student, academic, and a director for 40 years. I’m also ending my academic career,” Barbarosoğlu said in a statement on November 12 as she thanked her coworkers and students.

“I’m sure that Boğaziçi University will maintain its existence in the future with the help of its history, tradition, principles and outstanding cadre,” she added.

The new rector Mehmed Özkan is a professor in the university’s biomedical engineering department.

The power to directly appoint rectors without having to consider the preferences of academics was given to the president after the imposition of a state of emergency decree on October 29, 2016.

In a press release more than 350 academics at the university denounced the changes, recalling that the university appointed its rector on July 12, 2016 when the well-known Gülay Barbarosoğlu was reelected.

The regulation brings an end to a practice introduced in 1992, which declares rector candidates be elected by the academics at the universities before being presented to the president. The president can then either accept the recommendation or choose another candidate.

According to the new regulation, the president will choose from three rector candidates determined by Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK). However, if the president does not select one of those present by YÖK within a month and the body does not present a new candidate, the president will be able to appoint a rector directly. These rectors will be able to work for a maximum of two terms in state universities.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide Supports Academics Under Attack in Turkey

The war against academics started long before the attempted coup. On January 10 of this year, a group of scholars named the Academics for Peace signed an open letter asking the Turkish government to end its violence in the Kurdish provinces. The next day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the signatories of treason and called for their punishment. The Turkish judiciary system initiated public prosecutions under Turkish antiterror laws, alleging defamation of the Turkish state and accusing signatories of spreading “terrorist organization propaganda.” Turkey’s Higher Education Council (YÖK) ordered university rectors to commence disciplinary investigations. Numerous suspensions, dismissals, and imprisonments followed.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the detention of and professional retaliation against academics and human rights activists in Turkey in response to their exercise of the rights to academic freedom, free expression, and free association, conduct that is expressly protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both to which Turkey is party. The ongoing tensions in Turkey have a profoundly destructive effect on academic freedom and represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale.

We at Endangered Scholars Worldwide urge Turkish officials to honor their constitutional obligations to protect the institutional integrity of universities and the freedom of scholars and academics. We call on the United Nations General Assembly and member governments to put pressure on the Turkish government and express concern over the actions taken by against universities and higher education establishments.

Please join The New School, home of the original University in Exile and Endangered Scholars Worldwide, in calling on Turkish authorities to

  • cease their attacks on Turkish academics and universities;

  • free those who have been arrested without cause;

  • allow those who wish to travel freely outside the country to do so; and

  • make Turkish universities once again the havens of freedom of inquiry and free expression that all great universities must be.

Please send appeals to the following:

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım

Office of Prime Minister


06573 Ankara, Turkey

Administrative Aide, Ozel Kalem Mudurlugu Fax: ++90 312 403 62 82

Public Relations Department Fax: ++ 90 312 422 26 67

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanı (President of Turkey)

İsmail Kahraman

Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Başkanı (President of the Turkish National Grand Assembly)

Bekir Bozdağ

Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Adalet Bakanı (Justice Minister of the Republic of Turkey)

Yekta Saraç

Türkiye Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu (YÖK) Başkanı (President of the Council of Higher Education)

011 90 312 266 47 59

Serdar Kılıç

Turkish Ambassador to the United States

Fax: +1 202 612 67 44

İsmet Yılmaz

Milli Eğitim Bakanı (Minister of National Education)

Atatürk Bulvarı No: 98 06650 Bakanlıklar Ankara, Turkey

Fax: +90 312 4188289, +90 (312) 417 70 27


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